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A New Year of Reading: Staff Picks

posted: , by Elizabeth
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Teen Reads | Seniors


In January our staff looks forward to a New Year of books—what’s on order? What are our stack-searching, reading-list resolutions? What words are sailing toward us? What favorite authors have new books out, and what new authors are we excited to read? Here’s to all the bookish new beginnings that stir all reader’s hearts and minds. And if you have any great suggestions for the library to add to our collections in 2019, be in touch at readersadvisory@portlandpubliclibrary.com. 


Eileen’s Reading Resolutions

Resolutions make me squirm.  Too many New Year’s eves spent contriving resolutions, more than a few Januaries trying to fulfill the impossible or unlikely: wishing I was more ambitious, more imaginative, more productive, less lazy, less hungry, less directionless.   

This year maybe I can ease into resolve, keep things modest, reachable.  I want a goal with ample space for serendipitous side trails. I want to be resolute in a bendy way.  

So in 2019 I resolve that I will start as many books as I please, as many as call to me from the shelf because the cover is a smashing shade of teal, or the author’s name makes me smile.  Further, I resolve… that I will not give a fig about finishing a book just because I started it. I give myself permission to put it down when I have reached page 7 or 70 but am not feeling the joy.  I resolve to let myself move onto the next without guilt or explanation.  I resolve not to feel bad about choosing fluff over substance, except when I want it the other way ‘round.  I resolve to reread John Irving or Richard Russo or Kate Atkinson because they make me happy instead of taking yet another abortive stab at The Hobbit.  I resolve to ignore every article and book about the books everyone should read before they die.  Unless, that is, I am merely curious about their lists rather than embarrassed by the extraordinarily small number I am likely to have read.  I resolve to spend my time reading for pleasure: the pure pleasure of learning, of laughing, of thinking deep thoughts and feeling deep feelings, of finding the joy in words strung together in ways that delight and inform and make my mind reel with the beauty of someone else’s take on language and life.  

And when next January comes around, if I am above ground and in a resolution-making frame of mind, I resolve to do the same thing.  

So many books.  Pick one and see how it fits. 


Carrie’s Pick 

When the cold dark days of Maine winter set in nothing livens spirits and brings family and friends closer than cooking and eating together. If you are looking for an informative and well researched cookbook for young people look no further than the new title from America’s Test Kitchen Kids, The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefson its way to the library in 2019.  With recipes for all your family feasts, snacks, desserts, dinners, breakfasts, and just about anything your kids might want to eat, along with some more adventurous offerings, all tested by 750 kids, this book is sure be checked out again and again.  

Winter is a great time to encourage engaging indoor activities and stay warm and cozy in the kitchen while strengthening fine motor skills, math, chemistry, social studies, history, and nutrition – just to name a few of the concepts that cooking and eating together can reinforce.  Break out the wooden spoons and measuring cups, get tips on the best knives for kids (hint a sharp knife is a safe knife), and give the young people in your life a chance to contribute to the family table. Experts, and parents, agree that a sure fire way to get kids to expand their palates and become more ambitious eaters is to involve them in the process from shopping and chopping to eating and cleaning up.  

So, if you are interested in measuring, weighing, sifting, whisking, simmering and then eating your own creations this book is for you and the budding chef in your life! 



Kelley’s Pick 

I think the entire Teen staff cannot wait to get their hands on King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, because we are completely addicted to the GrishaverseSo if you are one of the lucky readers who have not yet delved into Bardugo’s gorgeous universe, try to catch up before January 29! 


Harper’s Pick 

Weird and spooky and unnerving, Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko is a definite book to read if you want to mess with your head. You know that feeling when you get headhunted to attend a creepy surreal college where failing tests causes mysterious accidents to happen to your family members and you might be transforming into something no longer human? It’s kind of like that. Want a fresh new start to your year? Try visualizing yourself into the form of an abstract concept of language! 


Nate’s Pick 

As we head towards the beginning of 2019 I am especially excited to get my hands on Laia Jufresa’s Umami. Originally written in Spanish and recently translated and published in English, this work meets one of my goals for 2019 which is to read as many translated books as I can get my hands on.  Furthermore, I greatly appreciate the ability of literature to serve as a sort of travel guide.  I find that an author’s place knowledge is generally greater than what I can learn through guidebooks. The narrative and social, political, and economic dynamics captured in literature also tend to offer a fuller perspective of a locale. Umami is set in Mexico City, a city I traveled to in in 2018 and have been fascinated with ever since.  I am thrilled at the prospect of exploring this metropolis through Jufresa’s senses. 



Sarah’s Pick 

I can’t wait to snatch up Carrianne Leung’s collection of short stories That Time I loved You this  February. Leung, author of Toronto Book Award–finalist The Wondrous Woo (2014), makes her U.S. debut with this collection of linked stories that begin with several local adults committing suicide in the summer of 1979. June, a preteen whose parents remind her how much better life is in the suburbs of Toronto than their native Hong Kong, is the sole and repeated first-person narrator throughout the stories. I am drawn to the idea of standalone stories linked by time, place, and character, and look forward to seeing how it plays out. The publisher promises “10 sweet, sad, sympathetic stories…that paint a group portrait of immigrants, misfits, adults, adolescents, and teenagers, all of whom discover suburban comfort does not ensure happiness.” Written in the tradition of Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri, Leung’s debut story collection sounds like it marks the career of a writer to watch! 


Aprill’s Picks 

Jane Mount’s Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany is a pure gem of book, certain to inspire the year of reading ahead. Mount has built a career by painting portraits of readers’ bookshelves, and her whimsical, yet crisp, illustrations make Bibliophile a total delight.  The book features cleverly themed collections that are sure to make your to-be-read pile grow and grow (and grow!), as well fun quizzes, portraits of various bookstore cats, and (my personal fave) famous fictional meals.  

Susan Orlean’s The Library Book is more than a thorough and engaging history of the devastating 1986 fire-by-arson that devastated the Los Angeles Public Library—it’s also a love letter to libraries themselves and to the vital role they play in our lives. 

The dark of January strikes me as a good time for scary fairy tales set in the deep, enchanted woods of colonial New England. I was bespelled Laird Hunt’s A House in the Dark of the Woods with its wolves and witches and dancing pigs. 

The emotionally intense, powerfully drawn graphic novel memoir is one of my all-time favorite genres, and Jarrett Krosoczka’s Hey Kiddo is one of the finest memoirs of this sort I’ve read in a long time. Krosoczka writes of a childhood shaped by his mother’s addiction, his father’s absence, the sometimes complicated love of his grandparents, and the saving grace of art. I also recommend watching the author’s TED talk about his childhood and the vital role creativity has played in his life. As we enter the new year, and I’m thinking about all the ways that we can be kinder to each other. The compassion that Hey Kiddo inspires feels like a true gift.  



Emily’s Picks 

I am in-between my graduate school semesters for the next few weeks, and I can’t wait to catch up on some of the excellent books that came out in this past year which I haven’t had the chance to read yet. I just started listening to Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir, which she narrates herself, making it an intimate listening experience. I’ve also enjoyed diving into Akata Warrior on audio—Yetide Badaki narrates with a rich voice I loved in Akata Witch (a title downloadable on eAudiobook through PPL’s cloudLibrary app), as she creates a cast of dynamic character voices for Sunny and her friends and teachers in Nigeria. I’ve set aside my copy of The Proposal until post-finals week, and I can’t wait to start and hear more about characters I met in Guillory’s The Wedding Date. I’m looking forward to reading the conclusion of the Murderbot quartet, Exit Strategy, and reading a recent short story about Murderbot in Wired made me immediately jump over to my library account to put it on hold! Others on my hold list include Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden, and with a look into books published in 2019, The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker, who wrote the moving book about the slowing of the earth’s rotation called The Age of Miracles. I know reality will likely catch up with me soon, and I won’t get to read all I’m looking forward to in the coming weeks, but I am certain I’ll be heading into the new year with a great stack of books to keep me company.  


Marie’s Pick 

When I found out that Margaret Atwood was writing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, I shrieked in excitement; it still feels surreal to me! I’ve loved the feminist dystopian classic since high school and it’s a gift to know that more level prose and clever, cautionary world-building is on the way. According to Atwood, The Testaments (due out in September) will pick up 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale ended, and was inspired by current events, as well as questions from readers about the original novel. I’m also proudly 7th in line to borrow the second season of Hulu’s screen adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, which was just added to the library’s DVD collection.  



Elizabeth’s Picks 

As I turn the pages of the new year, I’ve become happily stuck on Ursula K. Le Guin’s simple (yet…complex!) words around setting out to build a new world, starting with her thought: “It does not have to be the way it is…” These new books shine a light on the transformative, trickster fluidity of writing that invites a poet to be a novelist, a poet to be an essayist, an essayist to be a novelist. 

“Why did you come to the United States?” For a year writer Valeria Luiselli volunteered as a translator for asylum-seeking children facing deportation, and her revelatory nonfiction book Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions came out of the experience. In 2019 Luiselli asks her own questions in a new novel, Lost Children Archive. From the Publisher’s Weekly starred review: “Juxtaposing rich poetic prose with direct storytelling and brutal reality and alternating narratives with photos, documents, poems, maps, and music, Luiselli explores what holds a family and society together and what pulls them apart.” 

I don’t even know if some books being published in 2019 will find their way to the library but I’m hoping, fingers crossed: Ross Gay, who wrote the joyous, complex, heart-balming poetry in 2015’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude is back in February with a book of essays called The Book of Delights, which Algonquin Books tells us is a book of small and necessary joys, centered always in nature, the garden, the orchard, the flowers, pollinators, and the threads of connection we all need to live. 

Another great contemporary poet, Ocean Vuong (Night Sky with Exit Wounds) has a debut novel out this June: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. From Penguin Random House: “With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.” 


Nora’s Pick 

As I try to honor the experiences of my past year and look ahead to 2019, I’m anticipating the January release of All the Lives We Ever Lived, Katherine Smyth’s memoir and homage to Virginia Woolf. In her first book, Smyth traces the discovery of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, read quietly alongside her beloved father, through his death to cancer, and her subsequent reencountering of the novel in a post-father landscape: the uncharted territory of living on an earth from which one’s roots have been torn. Encompassing a look at Woolf’s work, her own childhood, and her experience of loss, Smyth’s debut charts two changing relationships: that of daughter to father and that of reader to favorite writer—perhaps one of the most tempestuous and revealing relationships of all.  

There is no one test for a quality book. Does it fill time that might otherwise be unbearable? Does it distract you in difficult times? Does it make you laugh? Does it reveal something of yourself? Does it provide you with a set of companions? Do the words themselves nip at you with poetic resonance? Are you hiding or seeking to be found? All the Lives We Ever Lived is on my shelf for many reasons, as Woolf is no doubt on those curated by Smyth. Since losing my own father to cancer this past spring, I have sought desperately for books to entertain and distract, to envelop and take me away from this world, wanting to lob out the window every novel wherein a parent suddenly has cancer. But I think in 2019, I am ready for a new attempt: to relate and thus to forge ahead in my new landscape. With this resolution in mind, I look forward to Smyth’s memoir. As Woolf writes in my favorite of her novels, The Waves, “I feel a thousand capacities spring up in me. I am arch, gay, languid, melancholy by turns. I am rooted, but I flow.” 




As always, thank you for reading.

The 1968 Project – December and 1968 Wrap-up

posted: , by Raminta Moore
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Seniors | Art & Culture

The 1968 Project aimed to highlight some of the historic events of the year. From protests and famous battles to chart-topping popular hits and box office smashing film, 1968 was a huge historical year with reverberations that we still feel today. The 1968 Project looked to grab snippets of these events on a monthly basis and list them here with links for further exploration. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey so far!

December 1st
John Irving publishes his first novel, Setting Free the Bears.

Peter Tork leaves The Monkees and later buys out the remaining four years of his contract.

December 4th
Director and producer, Archie Mayo passes away from cancer in Guadalajara, Mexico.

December 6th
The Rolling Stones release the album Beggars Banquet.

December 8th
Graham Nash decides to leave The Hollies to form Crosby, Stills & Nash with David Crosby of The Byrds and Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield.

Crosby, Stills & Nash self-titled album released in 1969.

Stevie Wonder releases For Once in My Life.

December 10th
Swiss author and Protestant theologian, Karl Barth, passes away in his home in Basel, Switzerland.

Trappist monk and author, Thomas Merton, is accidentally electrocuted during a stay at a conference outside of Bangkok, Thailand.

December 11th
The film Oliver! is released in theaters.

Blood, Sweat & Tears releases their self-titled album.

December 12th
American actress, Tallulah Bankhead, passes away in New York City after complications from emphysema.

Tallulah Bankhead as Judith Traherne in the original Broadway production of Dark Victory (1934)

December 14th
Operatic mezzo-soprano, Margarete Klose, passes away.

December 17th
Emory University student, Barbara Mackle, is kidnapped at gunpoint from her hotel room in Decatur, Georgia. Barbara’s kidnappers demanded $500,000 from her father, a wealthy Florida land developer. Mackle was found 83 hours later, buried in a ventilated box.

American mass murderer, Richard Speck, is granted a stay of execution by the Illinois Supreme Court.

December 18th
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the film based on the book by Ian Fleming (James Bond creator), is released in theaters.

December 20th
Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday were parked along Lake Herman Road near Benicia, California. They became the first confirmed victims of the Zodiac Killer.

American novelist, John Steinbeck passes away in New York City at the age of 66 from congestive heart failure.

December 21st
The first manned spacecraft to leave Earth’s orbit, reach the moon, orbit it, and return is the Apollo 8. Apollo 8 was manned by Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders. After their splash landing on December 27th, Time Magazine named the crew Time magazine’s Men of the Year.

Taken by Apollo 8 crewmember William Anders on December 24, 1968, at mission time 075:49:07 (16:40 UTC), while in orbit around the Moon, showing the Earth rising for the third time above the lunar horizon.

December 22nd
David Eisenhower, grandson of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, marries Julie Nixon, daughter of U.S. President-elect Richard Nixon.

December 23rd
Taj Mahal releases The Natch’l Blues.

December 24th
The Love Bug is released in theaters.

December 26th
Led Zeppelin makes their American debut at the Denver Auditorium Arena in Colorado.

December 31st
American jazz clarinetist, George Lewis, passes away.

Photograph by Stanley Kubrick, published in “Look” Magazine, 6 June, 1950.

Here are some quick facts from the year:

Average Cost of new house $14,950.00  
Average Income per year $7,850.00  
Average Monthly Rent $130.00  
Gas per Gallon 34 cents  
Average Cost of a new car $2,822.00  
Movie Ticket$1.50  
The Federal Hourly Minimum Wage is $1.60 an hour
The cost of the new sandwich at McDonald’s, the Big Mac, cost 49 cents.

There were 13 riots, over 30 massive protests, 16 plane crashes and 3 hijackings.

1968 was a Leap Year and according to the Chinese zodiac, was the year of the Monkey.

The Vietnam War:
By the year’s end, the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam has reached the all-time peak of 549,000. The U.S. death toll for 1968 is the highest yearly total in the war’s history–nearly 17,000 soldiers killed in action.

World Series Champions: Detroit Tigers 
Superbowl II Champions: Green Bay Packers 
NBA Champions: Boston Celtics 
Stanley Cup Champs: Montreal Canadiens 
U.S. Open Golf: Lee Trevino 
U.S. Tennis: (Men/Ladies) Arthur Ashe/Virginia Wade 
Wimbledon (Men/Women): Rod Laver/Billie Jean King 
NCAA Football Champions: Ohio State 
NCAA Basketball Champions: UCLA 
Kentucky Derby: Forward pass

The top five songs of the year:
Hey Jude – The Beatles
What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding
Jumpin’ Jack Flash – The Rolling Stones
Lady Madonna – The Beatles

The Nobel Prize for Literature: Yasunari Kawabata
American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal in Poetry: W.H. Auden
Hugo Award: Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light
Nebula Award: Alexei Panshin, Rite of Passage
Newbery Medal for Children’s Literature: E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: William Styron, The Confessions of Nat Turner
Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: Anthony Hecht, The Hard Hours

Airport by Arthur Hailey spent the longest amount of time (18 weeks) on the New York Times best seller list.

Top Grossing Films:
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
2. Funny Girl
3. The Love Bug
4. The Odd Couple
5. Bullitt
6. Romeo and Juliet
7. Oliver!
8. Rosemary’s Baby
9. Planet of the Apes
10. Night of the Living Dead 

For a list of PPL titles relating to events of 1968, please click HERE.

The rest of the 1968 Project is linked to below:
November 1968
October 1968 
September 1968
August 1968
July 1968
June 1968
May 1968
April 1968
March 1968
January & February 1968

At Year’s End: Our Staff Picks

posted: , by Elizabeth
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Seniors | Readers Writers



In December our library staff writes about a year of reading and a few favorites, old and new, that have stuck out for them lately. Here you’ll find trains and dragons, brave voices and new beginnings, paintbrushes and letters, friendships and journeys, and all sorts of the other good things you can discover at the library any day of the year you come to explore. As always, thank you for reading, and if you’re looking for more books, be in touch!


Eileen’s Picks  

He called out again, Goodnight, Enda, then turned the wheel hard to the right and started off down the track of the moonlit, homing lane. 

In a tiny guest room wedged under the eaves of our little house, we tuck in the occasional visitor.  Because I feel unease when sleeping away from home I aim to provide my minimalist notion of hospitality for those similarly afflicted: a fat comforter parked at the foot of the bed, a choice of pillows from envelope thin to Jet-Puffed plump, a nightstand with one drawer, a clock and a lamp.  If a sleepover insomniac feels curious, there is the drawer to explore.  Therein they will find two books, one a worn paperback copy of The All of It by Jeannette Haien.  With corners rounded to softness, wide margins to let the story breathe, its 145 pages will make wakefulness worthwhile.  It is perfectly proportioned for holding while supine, slight enough to tumble gently to the covers if sleep overtakes. 

The All of It encompasses life’s sorrow and gladness, wildness and wariness, judgement and forgiveness, endings and beginnings… in fact, the all of it, including a generous serving of salmon fishing. I love the beauty of its Irish-flavored cadence, the grip of main character Enda’s extraordinary and simple story, irresistibly evocative in the telling.  Words to describe it?  I steal “gem” and “unpretentious” and “perfection” from the reviewers; and purloin a phrase from the book itself: “soft, companionable, lyrical.”  To that I will add a sigh of deep satisfaction, straight from my heart. 

 If you’re still awake, reach back in the drawer.  You’ll have in hand a nearly wordless picture book that delights me every time I look at it, Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day.  A respectable appearing woman sets off to do errands, leaving her crib-bound child in the capable paws of Carl, a Rottweiler whose abilities and sense of adventure make him the babysitter children, parents and grandparents alike will want on speed dial.  No reading specs required for this one, making it ideal for perusal in bed.  It has a happy ending.  Sleep will soon follow.


Carrie’s Pick 

I absolutely love to take the train across this vast and diverse country of ours. Train I Ride, by Paul Mosier, reminds me to hope. To have hope for the future, no matter what today may bring. Hope for myself, no matter the mistakes of the past. Hope for my daughter, and all the children of today, that they will be brave enough to keep trying to make the world a better place, even in the face of all the destruction adults have wrought. Rydr is brave and bold and real and full of faults just like us. And yet she perseveres. She rides the train to the end of the line, unsure of what might be waiting for her, and learns that the journey is what prepares us for what comes next. 


 Kerry’s Picks  

One inspiring book I read this year is Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo by Zlata Filipović. She chronicles her day-to-day life during the Yugoslav war in the 1990s. I am inspired by her spirit and her bravery. 

Another book that inspired me is Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge. PPL doesn’t have this book but it is available to request through MaineCat.  I am inspired by Mary Shelley’s story because she survived great hardships in her life and still wrote one of the greatest pieces of literature of all time. 


Cindy’s Picks 

“This is an awful thing that’s happened to you, but it’s also presenting you with a rare opportunity. You have the chance to rebuild yourself from the ground up, to make a completely fresh start.”  

I recently finished ReStart by Gordan Korman.  It is a middle-grade novel about second chances.  Chase wakes up from a coma after falling off the roof of his house (under mysterious circumstances!) to discover that he doesn’t know anything about himself, who his parents are or anything at all.  He quickly begins to discover that he was mostly recently the biggest bully in his school.  People cower in fear of him, and from time to time, Chase has memories that come back to him of the things that he did.  He doesn’t like who he used to be, and so he begins life anew.  

ReStart is a real feel-good novel (growth comes through mistakes made along the way) that will leave you feeling that it’s possible to do the right thing, while at the same time you’re reading a book you just. can’t. put. DOWN!   

 “I remember being born.  In fact, I remember a time before that.  There was no light, but there was music: joints creaking, blood rushing, the heart’s staccato lullaby, a rich symphony of indigestion.  Sounds enfolded me, and I was safe.” 

I’ve also been listening to the audio version of Seraphina, a YA novel by Rachel Hartman.  The narrator has the most amazing English accent that somehow brings together the lavish, grand world of Goredd, with dragons masquerading as humans and lush world-building filled with delicious foods, music, clothing in a world only forty years out of a vicious and cruel civil war between the dragons and humans. Don’t miss this beautiful book, the beginning of a series which also includes Shadow Scale and Tess of the Road.  Whether you read or listen, you are in for a marvelous treat! 



Harper’s Pick 

“She still held sorrows, but she was not made of them. Her life was not a tragedy. It was a history, and it was hers.” 

I initially picked up Rachel Hartman’s Tess of the Road because I liked the cover (sometimes you can judge!) and because “girl dresses up as a boy and runs away” is a trope that will catch my attention every time. I had not yet read Seraphina and Shadow Scale, Hartman’s original two novels set in the world of Goredd, and so had no idea what I was getting into. You don’t need to read the duology to understand this companion novel, however—set 5 years after the concluding events of Shadow Scale, Tess’ world is built clearly through the perspective of her life story, and it’s easy to follow.

Tess is a strong and stubborn character, with a myriad of flaws and a traumatic backstory that we don’t learn the full extent of until close to the end of the book. Yes, there are dragons, and lizard-people, and other fantasy elements — but the real magic of this book is the journey Tess takes (both externally and internally) to find her place in the world. Hartman deals excellently with issues of underage pregnancy, sex-and-body-shaming families and cultures, alcohol use as a coping mechanism, coercive sex, coping with trauma, cultures with varying gender roles and expectations, disability…the list goes on, but Tess does not at all feel “preachy”–these things are simply facts of life for Tess, who has to make sense of them and herself in order to continue existing in the world. Tess is lovable in her flaws, her despair and anger and (eventual) joy, and her attempts to dissociate herself from traumatic memories are presented realistically and are relatable. When she finally does have the strength to deal with her past, there is no magical cure-all that makes everything “all better,” but instead there’s an acknowledgement that life, recovery, and hope are things we must work on in order to survive: “Maybe the world isn’t really different, but I am different, and I am in the world.”

I cannot stop thinking about this book and its message that life is, for all of us, a daily decision to continue to “walk on” through our histories and struggles. Highly recommended to anyone who has ever felt a little lost, a little hurt, and needs a little inspiration to remind themselves that sometimes just being is enough.  


Joanna’s Pick

I read The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, earlier this year and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was easy to read yet it really made me think—also, it had very well-written dialogue!


Gail’s Pick 

Hundreds of books pass through my hands every week. Some I forget instantly. Others I can’t stop thinking about. Draw Your Day: An Inspiring Guide to Keeping a Sketch Journal was one of the ones I’ve remembered. Just the brief look I had has already inspired me to begin sketching and journaling a little every day. I can’t wait for somebody to return it so I can peruse it more slowly. Get on the hold list for this book and get inspired! 


Sarah’s Picks 

Circe by Madeline Miller is an intelligent and beautifully written book about love, family, magic, adventure, and monsters, with a strong female character at the heart of it all. It’s a lovely retelling of Greek Mythology which is compelling that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I devoured it last spring. Miller is definitely a writer to watch, and I can’t wait for her next venture! 

As temperatures drop and daylight wanes, I’m really feeling the vibe of Northern Hospitality with the Portland Hunt + Alpine ClubIn addition to recipes for craft cocktails and Scandinavian bites that you can find at Andrew and Briana Volk’s restaurant in downtown Portland, the book has features on shucking oysters, ice fishing, and building bonfires that really evoke the feeling of Maine with a sense of wonder. 


Hannah’s Pick 

The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein—literally a bright light in the darkness of winter, beautifully imagined Nordic landscapes and wonderfully eccentric characters, this novel has been adapted to a film which will premiere at Sundance and star Jenny Slate, Zach Galifinakis, and Gillian Anderson. A perfect read for these long dark days, full of sunlight and joy. It inspired me to get out and play in the snow! 


Nora’s Picks 

“Perhaps if we could have arrange our lives as we would have chosen—in daily association—we might have defeated ourselves by so doing, for it may well be that enforced separation, and the necessity of writing instead of speaking, have contributed to the depth of love and understanding that have developed,” Rachel Carson writes to her beloved friend in a letter excerpted in Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman. And once again, I find myself nodding along to Carson’s intuitive words; my friends who know me best are those who are scattered across the country and receive my letters on the regular, not those whom I see every day. And might it perhaps be true that if we arranged our lives as we wished, we’d miss out on quite a bit that enriches our paths?  

The friendship between Carson and Freeman began by chance and developed into an unabashedly loving and frenetic correspondence that traces the years 1952 to 1964 across postal routes, following everyday details, from blueberry picking to canine shenanigans, as well as the personal side of Carson’s writing, launch to success, and final illness. Perhaps Carson’s insight is a testament to the very reason for writing at all: that we often bare our truest selves more easily on the page than in person. An enveloping read for those who harbor a fondness for the days of more frequent snail mail or just want to lose themselves in a double-sided narrative infused with affection. 

Sticking a letter in the mailbox is, for me, a kind of wish or prayer—a hand out in the universe asking to connect. What’s more inspiring than one wish? Myriad wishes expressed around the world in different ways, as beautifully portrayed by Roseanne Thong’s Wish. The picture book pairs verse with prose explanations of wishing traditions across the globe, and Kleven’s mixed media illustrations carry with them the joys and colors of diversity. Whether we’re pressing lucky peacock feathers, slipping dreams between wall cracks, wishing on weasels, or lobbing coins, we share in a worldwide culture that, no matter the challenges we perceive, persists in finding creative ways to launch our prayers. 



Meg’s Picks

Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach was the first book I read this year and I’ve thought about this novel so many times this year, including while driving the Merritt Parkway and while eating mushroom soup, and I keep coming back to the same question, is it a mystery or is it a story about the complexities of human love?  Not that those are mutually exclusive, but the characters, their relationships, and landscapes around them are so vivid that I forget that the root of the novel is a murder mystery. 

And then there’s Kate Harris’ Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road. What a brain. Although this book is far more than a beautifully written travelogue, I have been dreaming and scheming of long bike trips since I finished it.  


Mark’s Pick

Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant—as The New York Times Book Review put it: “Dunant transforms the black-hearted Borgias and the conniving courtiers and cardinals of Renaissance Europe into fully rounded characters, brimming with life and lust.”


Emily C’s Picks 

The end of the year always has me thinking of the “Best Of” the year’s books I’ve read, and which favorites I discovered. I encountered new authors who wrote works I loved, like Rakesh Satyal, whose novel No One Can Pronounce My Name caught my eye on an LGBTQ+ display at the library. I was delighted to listen to new audiobooks by favorite authors, like Kate Atkinson’s Transcription, which drew me in with its world of espionage during WWII and narrator Fenella Woolgar’s wry asides. I was inspired and moved by the words of Rebecca Traister in Good and Mad, and will be buying a big stack for upcoming holiday gifting. And my kids delighted in taking out huge stacks of picture books, discovering favorites to read over and over, like The Princess in Black and Lumberjanes, and being especially excited to discover audiobooks to pair with the stories. I look forward to sharing these favorites and more with friends and family in the coming weeks, and with readers in the library next time I’m on the desk! 


Marie’s Pick 

Nando Parrado was a shy 22-year-old when the plane carrying his rugby team crashed in the Andes in 1972. He emerged as an unexpected leader, urging his friends to stay alive at any cost, and to coordinate their own rescue.  

“Challenging the mountains was the only future this place would allow me, and so, with a sense of grim resolve that was now more ferociously entrenched than ever before, I accepted…that I would never stop fighting to leave this place, certain the effort would kill me, but frantic to start the climb.”  

Parrado and a fellow teammate trekked 45 miles through the Andes in 10 days, wearing only street clothes and rugby cleats, before reaching civilization. While Parrado was responsible for saving many lives, his heroics are glossed over in favor of eloquent reflection in his astonishing memoir, Miracle in the Andes. 

Written more than thirty years after the disaster, Miracle in the Andes is an inimitable reflection. Parrado describes unimaginable pain and loss with grace, balancing the spiritual with the corporeal, never playing up the salacious details or his own achievements. If anything shines through it is his humility– he writes that everyone has “their Andes,” their own seemingly insurmountable trials.  

“As we used to say in the mountains, ‘Breathe. Breathe again. With every breath, you are alive.” After all these years, this is still the best advice I can give you: savor your existence. Live every moment. Do not waste a breath.”  



Elizabeth’s Picks 

In these days of bright screen after screen, settling in to the papery depths of a book feels like rest for my eyes, and my mind profoundly enjoys one author and one story for a time, a welcome respite from clicking and scrolling. My favorite fiction in 2018 had characters who hooked me, ideas, plots, imagination and world-building that gripped me, and sheer invention and heart that drew me in to tales riddled with ghosts, gods, spaceships and cities, islands, plagues, falcons and foxes, lovers and the dead—stories of violence, loss, end times, love, identity, tenderness, connection, life. Fantastical or realistic, these aren’t escapist stories: they all point to the world we live in and re-imagine its troubles, heroes, and possibilities anew.  

There have been unforgettable characters in extraordinary circumstances: Candace Chen of Severancethe ultimate millennial workplace survivor; Maggie Hoskie, the Dinétah monster hunter of Trail of Lightning; Ama, the knife-wielding, herbal-tea-distributing teenager of Friday Black. A pair of favorite star-crossed, brainy, revolutionary lovers in space: Aster and Theo of An Unkindness of Ghosts. Ghosts and folk and myth and fairy and new tales have been abundant, and I hope for as many intriguing stories next year as the ones found in Before the FeastHimselfTenderTess of the RoadOnce Upon a RiverCirceSpinning Silver, and How Long til Black Future Month? And there was much moving, thoughtful or funny realistic fiction: Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman, Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink, and  Aminatta Forna’s Happiness. (Just to name a few). I’m looking forward to all the gems of 2019, and a winter curled up with a stack of new books.  



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